Notre Dame cathedral fire: First pictures show destruction inside Paris landmark

Chris Riotta

The first photos from inside the Notre Dame cathedral showed extensive damage a massive fire caused after engulfing the historic edifice.

The altar at the helm of the beloved cathedral appeared all but entirely burned down by the blaze, as smoke still appeared to be rising from the ashes in a photo seemingly taken shortly after firefighters began containing the flames.

A golden cross was seemingly left intact, hanging above the destruction that once was the ornate focus for millions of visitors who marvelled at the longstanding structure and its global impact on culture and history.

The blaze collapsed the cathedral’s spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers, but Paris fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said the church’s structure had been saved after firefighters managed to stop the fire spreading to the northern belfry.

The 12th century cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, immortalised by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The exact cause of the blaze was not known, but French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire is “potentially linked” to a major renovation project on the church’s spire and its 250 tonnes of lead.

The Paris prosecutors’ office ruled out arson and possible terror-related motives, and said it was treating it as an accident.

Flames shot out of the roof behind the nave of the cathedral, among the most visited landmarks in the world. Hundreds of people lined up bridges around the island that houses the church, watching in shock as acrid smoke rose in plumes.

Speaking alongside junior Interior minister Laurent Nunez late Monday, Mr Gallet said “two thirds of the roofing has been ravaged”.

Late Monday, signs pointed to the fire nearing an end as lights could be seen through the windows moving around the front of the cathedral, apparently investigators inspecting the scene.

The fire came less than a week before Easter amid Holy Week commemorations. As the cathedral burned, Parisians gathered to pray and sing hymns outside the church of Saint Julien Les Pauvres across the river from Notre Dame while the flames lit the sky behind them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report